This is part two of my series on traveling solo to Walt Disney World. In part one, I reviewed some of the reasons why Disney World is a great first solo trip for anyone new to solo travel. Now it’s time to review the pros and cons of a solo trip to Disney.
The Cons of Going Solo at Disney World
There’s no doubt about it, if you’re traveling alone to Disney World, you’re going to pay more than if you could split the cost with someone else. How can you make it more affordable for one? Stay for fewer nights, visit during value season, downgrade the type of resort you stay at (Deluxe to Moderate or Moderate to Value), or consider staying off-site if you have access to a car. The more flexible you are, the easier it is to save money. If Disney is offering its Dining Plan free as an incentive to book a room on site, jump on it. Or buy your own breakfast and lunch materials and store them in your room refrigerator. To save on park tickets, purchase them in advance–either through Disney World or a reputable online discounter like Undercovertourist. You will save a little money over the gate price AND avoid standing in a long line when you get to the parks. If you go to Disney often enough, it might be worth it to become an Annual Passholder.
For more outstanding tips on how to save money on a WDW trip, go to Mousesavers.com. This site offers tips on how to save money in all categories. Sign up for their monthly newsletter for special deals!
You don’t have to be lonely just because you’re traveling alone. Betsy, a moderator from WDWForGrownUps.com, says: “If I’m somewhere for a long time or feel particularly gregarious, I find other solos or ‘friends’ to chat with, eat with, etc. Being solo is a great opportunity to meet new people and sometimes create long term friends. . .just gotta break out of that shy mode. . . .Talk to people, take pictures for folks, find out where they’re from and what their story is. I’m a writer, so that stuff always interests me, but the greatest opportunities can come from just opening up to other people.”
The most important tip is to smile and be friendly. Chat with people standing in line with you. I know this is easier said than done for the shy. But what better place than Disney World for you to step outside your comfort zone? It’s a safe environment, filled with happy, friendly people. Practice on Cast Members first. It’s their job to talk to you!
Bring your cell phone and stay in touch with friends and family back home. Do you miss having someone to turn to and say “Did you see that?” No problem. Just get on your cell phone and describe it to them. Or, if you have a camera phone, take a picture and send it to them.
Another way to socialize is to sign up for one of Disney’s several Tours, such as Keys to the Kingdom, Backstage Safari (recommended by Betsy from WDWForGrownUps as “lots of fun“), Dolphins in Depth, and more. I asked Fran from Pittsburgh about her experience with Keys to the Kingdom. She said: “I think I was the only solo traveler in our group of about 15 people. It was great because at lunch I was seated with the tour leader and got to spend some individual time just discussing Disney in general. I think it was a perk to do the tour as a solo traveler.”
You can also meet up with other solos who are planning to be at Disney World at the same time you are. Such meets are arranged all the time through Disney message forums online, such as the DIS Boards, and through Twitter. Just be sure to exercise the same caution you would if you were going on a blind date.
Another cool trick is to wear a conversation starter–an article of clothing, a pin, a hat, or something that will get comments from people. It’s a great way to break the ice. I wore my University of Vermont sweatshirt to Disney, and by doing so, managed to meet a woman whose boyfriend had attended UVM and got a comment from the pilot on my flight, who was also a UVM alumnus. People would call me “Vermont” or tell me where in New England they were from. Try it. It works.
If you have no interest in talking to strangers, beat loneliness by bringing a book with you everywhere and reading it while waiting in line, waiting for shows, or waiting for your food. I also keep a daily journal of what I’m doing and experiencing every day to share with friends and family after I get home. Journaling is a great way to capture all those details of a wonderful trip that you think you’ll remember years later, but trust me, you won’t unless you write them down. If you’ve never journaled before, pretend you’re writing to a dear friend who wants to hear all the details of your trip.
No one to take your photo
Obviously, it would be better to have a photo of yourself in front of Cinderella’s Castle than just a picture of Cinderella’s Castle. Actually, this isn’t as much of a negative at Disney World as it is most places you’ll travel solo. Why? Because Disney employs PhotoPass photographers who can be found in all the parks. It’s their job to take your photo (they will even take the photo with your own camera, so you don’t have to pay for it). If you want a photo somewhere and don’t see a PhotoPass photographer, offer to take another guest’s (or group’s) photo if they will take yours; use a camera with a self-timer; or use an X-Shot or Quik Pod–camera extenders which allow you to take a wider angle photo of yourself than the arm-stretch method allows.
No one to watch your place in line
What do you do when you’re standing in a long queue for an attraction, and suddenly you have to pee? If you go to the restroom, you’ll lose your place in line. My suggestion is to make darn sure you go to the bathroom before you get in a long line; otherwise, be prepared to make friends with people in front of you or behind you, so you can ask them to save your spot.
The key to successful solo dining anywhere is distraction, distraction, distraction. So you don’t have anyone in your “party of one” to talk to across the table? If you’re the friendly, gregarious type, try eating at the bar of a restaurant (where you can chat with fellow diners or the bartender) or let your server know you’re happy to share a table with another solo. If you’re shy and introverted, bring a book or your journal to review while you wait for your food to arrive. Ask for a table near the window so you can people-watch. Even at your table, you may find that your waiter or waitress will pay you a little extra attention if you’re dining alone.
Of course, there’s always room service, and counter service and buffets allow you to avoid that awkward wait time between when you order and when your food arrives, but it would be a shame to go to Disney World and not eat at some of their wonderful table service restaurants. In a future segment of this series, I will talk about some specific Disney restaurants that might be best for solo travelers, and why.
This is one of those cons that actually isn’t a con. In most instances when you travel solo, you have to be extra vigilant about your safety. But Disney World is one of the safest places you can go as a solo traveler. That said, you should still exercise some caution. Obviously, be alert about your surroundings as you walk around the property, especially at night. Keep your valuables in your room safe, don’t give out your room number to strangers–the usual safety tactics apply here too. If you are a woman, and a male guest is making unwanted advances, get help from a cast member.
For more general solo travel safety tips, see my post on Safe Solo Travel.
And then there is the most dreaded Con of all. . . .
Fear of What People Will Think Of You For Traveing Alone to Disney World
I feel your pain. Just thinking about traveling alone has you flashing back to your nerdy high school days when you ate lunch alone in the cafeteria or were the only one sitting on the sidelines while everyone else had a partner at the school dance. Oh the ridicule you suffered! The looks of pity you endured! The truth is 90% of people at Disney will never–and need never–know you are there alone. The majority will assume you are separated from your party temporarily. I would guess under 10% might realize you’re alone, if they weren’t too busy focusing on themselves to notice you at all. Maybe, just maybe, there will be 2% who notice you’re alone and think it’s weird. You know how many of those people you’ll ever see again? None! So don’t let fear of what other people are thinking stop you from going and having a good time. You might even luck out and make some new friends who invite you to join them for a meal.
I hope you realize by now that most of the Cons of traveling solo to Disney World are easily neutralized by employing good strategies and having a positive attitude. Now let’s review…
The Pros of Going Solo at Disney World
It’s All About YOU
The most obvious pro is that your trip is all about you. As frequent solo traveler Bill Brown from CA puts it: “I find solo trips to Disney World are most relaxing, because I can go where I please, when I want and change my mind at the last minute without being inconsiderate toward anyone.” You don’t have to negotiate anything with anyone. No arguing with someone who wants to spend the morning at Animal Kingdom when you want to go to the Magic Kingdom. No debates about whether to eat at Tusker House or Yak and Yeti. No stopping at a bathroom for the third time in an hour because someone else in your party has to go potty. Let’s face it: At a crowded Disney park, where lines and wait times can be very long, time is a precious commodity, and when you’re alone, you can squeeze in a lot more fun! And remember how you groaned about having no one to split the cost of the hotel room with? Well, that pays off for you big time at the end of a long hard day in the parks when you can hog the bathtub all you want for a good, long soak, sprawl out on that big, comfy bed all by yourself, and watch whatever you want on TV. Ah, bliss.
Single Rider Line
If you’ve ever used the Single Rider Line at Walt Disney World, you know what I’m talking about. This is your chance to bypass all the families standing in that long, snaking line in front of Test Track, where it appears the wait time is at least an hour. Not for you, baby. You get to dash down the single rider line, where a cast member will squeeze you in wherever they need just one more body in a seat. When you get off the ride, those poor families in line may have moved forward a few feet. Meanwhile, you’re off to the next ride on your list!
Stop and Smell the Roses
On the flip side of being able to cram in as much fun as possible in your limited vacation time is your ability to really slow down and notice things more. When you’re with a group, you’re usually all so busy gabbing with each other that you miss a lot of the finer details of your surroundings, and in a place like Disney, that would be a shame. You can stop and take all the pictures you want, wander through the gardens, hunt for Hidden Mickeys, or sit on a bench and people-watch if you want to. If you never have time for non-park activities when you travel with others, now would be a good time to do that.
Solos Have Cool Experiences
It’s been my experience that cool things happen to you when you’re traveling alone that probably wouldn’t have happened if you if you had been traveling with someone else. (Like my singing cabbie in Vegas.) I had a great time chatting with a chef while sitting at the counter at Wolfgang Puck’s; I’m from Vermont, and he was from Boston, so we were soon chatting like old neighbors about winters in New England. Bill Brown told me “During one visit, I was adopted as a fill-in dad for a fellow who wasn’t up to riding some attractions with his kids.” How special is that? Only at Disney. And if you think that’s great, Fran from Pittsburgh tells this story:
“I was celebrating my birthday on my last trip and handed out little gifts to the CMs (Cast Members) in the Magic Kingdom. Many of them said they never got anything from a guest before and they felt good to be appreciated; throughout the day the different CMs gave me about 20 fastpasses to use. Before the park opened one CM was handing out program guides while we waited and I gave one of the gifts I was handing out. When she found out I was traveling alone, she took me to the front of the line, had everyone sing happy birthday to me (which was rather embarrassing) then took me in to City Hall to get a birthday pin and a couple of fastpasses.” Now that’s an experience to remember.
Need more convincing? Check out my Top 10 Reasons to Travel Solo to Disney World.
Next up: When to Go to Disney World, How to Get Around, and Where to Stay–all from the solo’s perspective.